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Ryder Cup Sunday Reflection: Do the Europeans just care more?

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Of course, every competitor “cares” in the way that they want to win, and they prepare themselves accordingly; displays of emotion are more about personality than actually caring. “Who wants it more?” is a common commentator cliche, and a bad one at that. But in this article, I’m talking about really care, as in, if your backs are up against the wall you’ll do anything to win, including provide energy and spark even when getting trampled. Not just maintain acceptable body language despite losing, but acting in ways that inspire teammates. Fight and claw until the bitter end. And it starts at the top, with the veterans and future hall-of-famers, who know who they are.

The United States needs more care in them, it seems.

I’m going to call it the “Larry Nelson Curse.” Until the PGA of America publicly apologizes to Larry Nelson, the last guy to go 5-0 before Moli-Moli-Moli-Moli-Moli-Moli MOLINARI, for not giving him his richly-deserved captaincy, Team USA will never again win on foreign soil. Sad part is, it doesn’t seem they care. Very few players showed urgency, passion, zeal or enthusiasm this week in France. Take note of the “Or” and not the “And” in the preceding sentence; to hope for more than one of those adjectives was asking too much of Team USA. It could also be labeled “Watson’s Vindication.” After the infamous player rebellion of 2014, in response to Tom Watson’s heavy-handed captaincy, the players were given more say in player selection, but here we are, four years later, with eerily similar results overseas. Team USA couldn’t have been given a more American golf course; Le Golf Nationale seemingly was the player to be named later in the Statue of Liberty deal, hewn from the swamplands of south Florida. Yet here we are again, marveling at the creativity and camaraderie of Team Europe, wondering why the lads from the west can’t get this thing figured out. I could go into Azinger and his pods, but why discuss the only USA dominance of the past 20 years? It’s like ripping off a scab.

To be fair, Team USA is played out. I blame the catty relationship between the PGA of America (which co-runs the event) and the PGA Tour (which supplies the talent). You would think that the two bodies could get together and say, hey, a win benefits both of us. Let’s, for example, not schedule the FedEx Cup’s Tour Championship immediately prior to these matches. They seem to have that figured out for the near future; the leaner playoffs will end in late August, and the 2020 Ryder Cup, at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, will be played the last week of September. That should give everyone time to chillax and lose their games, or find them. Who knows?

Every session, Team Europe plays with a massive chip on its shoulder. This chip is a healthy, motivational thing. Do you think, for just a second, that any member of Team USA feels like an underdog? No, they don’t. I don’t get how Bubba Watson doesn’t play with a chip on his shoulder. He seems to win in Augusta and Hartford, and that’s it. Is he too comfortable? I don’t know how Webb Simpson doesn’t play with a chip on his shoulder. He won a U.S. Open, then took half a decade off before winning the Players Championship. Two wins, no matter how big, in 8 years makes me wonder how much of a closer he is…and he went to my alma mater! I don’t know how Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods don’t play with a chip on their shoulders. They had to be captain’s picks, despite being the best golfers of a generation. They knew that they would be under a SwingVision lens, yet nothing.

In 2018, Europe dominated Team USA in all three formats. They won the singles competition by three points, tied the fourballs (better ball) events after spotting the visitors a 3-1 advantage, and rolled the foursomes (alternate shot) by a 6-2 margin. In 2014, Europe won by 5 points. Team USA returned the favor by winning by 6 points in 2016. Offended, the Euros won this one by 7 points. As much as Le Golf Nationale should have played into USA hands, Whistling Straits should remind fans of links golf of, well, almost a European links course. If Steve Stricker, the consumate Wisconsonian, is not named captain of Team USA, I’ll eat my cheese curds. I’m sure that they will be delicious. Stricker’s game was never about bomb and gouge, yet the majority of his golfers will be more comfortable with that game than the one demanded by LGN this past week. Can Whistling’s fairways be widened? Or, can tees be pushed up enough to allow Team USA to find wider areas, farther down the fairway? Failing that, can the tees be pushed soooooo far back, to 8K yards, that it will take a 300-yard carry to reach the fairway? Like sands through the bunker rake, these are the days of our lives.

In order to win over Buffalo fans, players new to the Sabres and the Bills (my hometown teams) need only do one thing: play like they care. Team USA looked flat and uninterested, while Team Europe was everything but that. I suspect that fans of Team USA will demand this of their golfers in 2020 and beyond. It’s to be expected that the squad will want to play well on home soil in 2020, but will they be able to carry it over to Rome in 2022? I have my doubts. As golfers aren’t allied with cities and regions, as happens in other major sports, we never truly invest our hearts in them, unless a team event is underway. Do we have a right to expect something patriotic from them, once a year at most? Perhaps not.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. arturo

    Oct 1, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Golfwrx is proving that know how to beat a dead horse. Did you guys run out of topics for the year?

  2. Tom

    Oct 1, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Reminds me of the quote, “A lot of people are concerned about apathy, but I don’t care!”

  3. joro

    Oct 1, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    YES! They do want to win and are way more together than the U S players. They travel together, eat together and not a bunch of individuals like the American. The do want it more and we do.

  4. Waly

    Oct 1, 2018 at 11:18 am

    I think that both teams wanted to win, no question about it, however, where we are concerned it’s more individualistic, with the Europeans it’s more about the team/country. I’m not saying that we don’t have pride but it was clearly evident that the Europeans were more involved and enthusiastic as a team to be there and play for their country in the Ryder Cup.

    • BMoney

      Oct 1, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Nation of greed? So you’d rather live in a socialist/liberal utopia than a capitalistic country?

      Feel free to move, pal. See ya!

  5. David

    Oct 1, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Honestly, I believe it’s more then just caring. Politics in this Country show us that we are no longer a Nation of people caring about people, we are a Nation of greed. I saw a lack of interest in US Ryder Cup players faces from the beginning. We are spoiled. If we can’t have it all our way, we just won’t play. The crowd was against them, the weather was colder then they would have liked and there’s no money in it for them. So, whats the incentive? Pride? What’s that?

  6. ChipNRun

    Oct 1, 2018 at 10:48 am

    “GUNMETAL Sep 30, 2018 at 9:30 pm
    I’m so bored with this take… Two years ago in Hazeltine, nobody mentioned a lack of caring on the US side. Wide fairways and fast greens must have helped with their desire, I guess…”

    GM noticed some of the same things that Wall Street Journal writer Brian Costas did. Costas points to USA problems such as: fairways not hit, non-soft greens and 2-10 performance by Furyk’s captain’s picks.
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/europe-defeats-u-s-to-win-ryder-cup-1538319791

  7. Majorduffer

    Oct 1, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Our teams senior statesmen stunk up the golf course and it was a team with toxic Patrick Reed and his whining wife making everyone upset. We can only hope Cpt. Maniac Reed doesnt make the next team or if he does then set him down for everything but individual play. There is a reason that Jordan didn’t want to play with Reed and no one wants to practice with him. He is a toxic little
    troll. The team must move more toward younger players and have the senior statesman players as vice captains. Or we could offer automatic US citizenship to
    Tommy, Rory, Sergio, Poulter, Olsen, & Stenson.

    • ChipNRun

      Oct 1, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      When Patrick’s Captain America went 3-1-1 in 2016 – including a 1 UP win Sunday over Rory M – everybody loved him. Now, MD wants to make Reed scapegoat for a USA team that couldn’t hit fairways and went 2-10 with captain’s pick players.

      How short is our memory…

  8. dixiedoc

    Oct 1, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Many of our players are more interested in the “I” in TEAM than the “WE”. It’s pretty obvious in their demeanor, at least some of them.

  9. Jeff

    Sep 30, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    Everyone wants to win. The difference is the ones that don’t want to lose. The euros don’t want to lose over there and it shows.

  10. Onetime17

    Sep 30, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    European players are judged by their performance in 2 events… The Open championship and the Ryder Cup. They just flat out care more. It’s a shame, but I think for the USA to be consistently relevant they need to incentivize the players with winning shares $$$. On the other hand I’m not sure that would even work being they all make 10 million + a year. Europeans will be celebrating this for weeks… this will be quickly forgotten in the US (players included) too bad

  11. gunmetal

    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    I’m so bored with this take. Since the US doesn’t show the emotion you want to see while getting their butts kicked – that means they don’t care as much as the Euros. Two years ago in Hazeltine, nobody mentioned a lack of caring on the US side. Wide fairways and fast greens must have helped with their desire, I guess.

    So many factors involved here, not the least of which was general fatigue likely from the FedEx Playoff run that involved playing 4 out of the last 5 weeks which is a real deal for older or more injury prone players. Course setup was a big deal and selecting Mickleson with the way he drove the ball all season was not a great idea knowing Bjorn would set the course up the way he did.

    If you think the US Players don’t care as much as the Euros you might be right, though I would disagree and neither of us know. After reading Feinsteins book on Hazeltine it’s tough to walk away with the take that we just don’t care that much or as much as the Euros.

    We got beat down by great world class talent from the other side of the pond with a very wise captain. That simple.

  12. 4RiGHT

    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Tiger looked stoned in the presser. Completely defeated…

  13. IMO

    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    LARRY NELSON.

  14. Stump

    Sep 30, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Compare Fleetwood to Tiger. Fleetwood showed genuine excitement when he made key shots, genuine emotion. Yet on Tour, he is more laid back. In the RC, Tiger seldom did more than a small fist pump, yet on tour he is known to make rather large gestures when he holes key putts.
    Does it mean that Fleetwood cares more than Tiger? Only those two know the truth, but on the surface, it seems to be true.

    • CaoNiMa

      Oct 1, 2018 at 2:15 am

      No it just means that Eldrick is a selfish little child who only cares about himself and getting attention for his own successes and not for a team. But we’ve all known that since he was a child. Ooops he still is an immature child, listen to the way he talks and scoffs at others questions

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